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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 May 2021
The 1844 Teatro Victoria in Valparaiso, Chile, can be considered the first purpose-built opera house in the Andean region of the Americas. Managed by impresario Pietro Alessandri, it became the centre of an early operatic scene in the South Pacific and a model for theatres built during the following decades. In this article, I discuss the Teatro Victoria as an opera house and the way in which it functioned on the borders of what was then a new global operatic scene. Latin American research on opera has focused mostly on singers and performances, rather than on the workings of the opera houses and the operatic scene. This article discusses the rationale behind the development of the Teatro Victoria project, some of the strategies underpinning its success and the notion of this particular opera house as a projection of certain ideas of ‘Italian culture’ and networks. The article shows, first, that the successful reception and appropriation of Italian opera in this period was not necessarily guaranteed, and it differed across the Americas. Second, that local brokers and host communities had key roles in shaping that reception, which can easily be perceived as a passive one when looked at only from the perspective of the singers or the music itself.
This article has been written and funded in the context of the ANID project FONDECYT de Iniciación 11170265. It would not have been possible without the generous archival research support of Colomba Nómez, Macarena Robledo, Macarena Aguayo, Laura Jordán and Fabián Tobar, as well as commentaries, suggestions and information provided by several wonderful people, including Alexander Klein, Charlotte Bentley, Benjamin Walton, Susan Rutherford and the philharmonic companions Yael Bitrán, Paulo Kühl and Rondy Torres.
1 Aspden, Suzanne, ed., Operatic Geographies: The Place of Opera and the Opera House (Chicago, 2019)Google Scholar; Hesselager, Jens, ed., Grand Opera Outside Paris: Opera on the Move in Nineteenth-Century Europe (New York, 2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Walter, Michael, Oper: Geschichte einer Institution (Stuttgart, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
2 On the discussion of the field of global history and recent changes in historiography, see Hunt, Lynn, Writing History in the Global Era (New York, 2014)Google Scholar.
4 For example, Torres, Rondy, ‘Tras las huellas armoniosas de una compañía lírica: La Rossi-D'Achiardi en Bogotá’, Revista del Instituto de Investigación Musicológica Carlos Vega 26 (2012), 161–200Google Scholar; Vera Wolkowicz, ‘Inventing Inca Music: Indigenist Discourses in Nationalist and Americanist Art Music in Peru, Ecuador and Argentina, 1910–1930’ (PhD diss., University of Cambridge, 2018). Rindom's, Ditlev ‘Italians Abroad: Verdi's La traviata and the 1906 Milan Exposition’, Cambridge Opera Journal 31/2–3 (2019), 237–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar, is part of a recent trend of research on transnational opera between Italy and Argentina, including important work on Walter Mocchi as impresario. See, for example, Matteo Paoletti ‘Mascagni, Mocchi, Sonzogno. La Società Teatrale Internazionale (1908–1931) e i suoi protagonisti’ (PhD diss., Università di Bologna, 2015) and Diana Giacometti, ‘La figura dell'impresario musicale. Walter Mocchi e la costruzione di un'industria operistica fra Italia e Sud America’ (PhD diss., Università Ca’ Foscari, Venice). Paoletti also recently published a book on the subject, A Huge Revolution of Theatrical Commerce: Walter Mocchi and the Italian Musical Theatre Business in South America (Cambridge, 2020).
5 Giacometti, ‘La figura dell'impresario musicale’, 10.
6 For a recent account of the way opera changed in Latin America during the nineteenth century, see Luis Hammeken, La república de la música: ópera, política y sociedad en el México del siglo XIX (México, 2018).
7 Preston, Katherine K., Opera on the Road: Traveling Opera Troupes in the United States, 1825–1860 (Urbana, 2001)Google Scholar.
8 Walter, Oper: Geschichter einer Institution, 102: ‘Der amerikanische Opernbetrieb war im 19. Jahrhundert von mobile Operntruppen geprägt, die in verschiedenen Theatern spielten.’
9 For example, George Martin's Verdi in America: Oberto through Rigoletto (Rochester, 2011) considers only the United States of America. But of the seventeen western hemisphere premieres of Verdi's operas considered in the book, thirteen were premiered in Latin America first, and two of the four that premiered in the United States of America date from the twentieth century (Appendix, 347–8). Not to discuss this relationship in the main text of the book seems a missed opportunity, particularly for Alzira's premiere in Lima, with local singers led by soprano María España in the title role in 1850.
10 Walter, Oper: Geschichte einer Institution, 120.
11 See, for example, Marina Lamus Obregón on theatre and opera companies in Bogotá, including Teatro siglo XIX: compañías nacionales y viajeras (Medellín, 2010).
12 For more than a century, scholars have implied a passive reception history of Italian opera in Latin America, in books centred on chronological accounts of opera companies, performances and singers, supported by quotes from contemporary newspaper reviews.
14 Here I am considering the coastal distance from Guayaquil in Ecuador to Concepción in Chile, which seems to have been the common range for most operatic practices of the period.
15 Aspden, Operatic Geographies, 1–2.
16 See Jorge León, Evolución del comercio exterior y del transporte marítimo de Costa Rica 1821–1900 (San José, 1997), 55–65.
17 Balromero Estrada, ‘Desarrollo empresarial urbano e inmigración europea: Españoles en Valparaiso, 1880–1940’ (PhD diss., Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 2012), 31.
18 John Miers, Travels in Chile and La Plata, including accounts… (London, 1826), 449.
19 William Ruschenberger, Three Years in the Pacific; Including Notices of Brazil, Chile, Bolivia and Peru, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1934), I: 141.
20 Basil Hall, Extracts from a Journal Written on the Coasts of Chili, Peru and Mexico (London, 1840), 39.
21 Roberto Hernández, Los primeros teatros de Valparaíso y el desarrollo de nuestros espectáculos públicos (Valparaiso, 1928), 43.
22 Hernández, Los primeros teatros de Valparaíso, 47.
23 Hernández, Los primeros teatros de Valparaíso, 66.
24 José Santos Tornero, Reminiscencias de un viejo editor (Valparaiso, 1889), 19.
25 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (9 July 1842).
26 Archivo Nacional de Chile (ANC), Actas de la Municipalidad de Valparaiso (16 December 1842). The model of popular subscription was used elsewhere in Latin America, including the slightly earlier theatre in Rio de Janeiro.
27 Apparently, the only fully extant Spanish baroque ‘corral’ or ‘coliseo’ is in Almagro, Spain, and dates from 1628.
28 Alexander von Humboldt, Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America, during the Years 1799–1804, 3 vols. (London, 1852), I: 404.
29 Other old theatres in Mexico that have been designed to be roofless are the Teatro Principal in Puebla, the Teatro Alarcón in San Luis Potosí (where today sunlight comes through a glass cover) and the José Peón Contreras in Mérida, which still has a ‘floating’ nineteenth-century roof.
30 See Chamorro, Guillermo Ugarte, ‘Teatro en Arequipa en 1860’, Estudios de teatro peruano 42 (1965), 1–6Google Scholar. See also La bolsa, Arequipa (25 February 1860) for an account of the problems with rain in the theatre.
31 José Manuel Izquierdo König, ‘Rossini's Reception in Latin America: Scarcity and Imagination in Two Early Chilean Sources’, in Gioachino Rossini 1868–2018: La musica e il mondo, ed. Ilaria Narici, Emilio Sala, Emanuele Senici and Benjamin Walton (Pesaro, 2018), 410.
32 Heinrich Witt, Diario 1824–1890: un testimonio personal sobre el Perú del siglo XIX, 2 vols. (Lima, 1992), I: 336.
33 Ricardo Donoso, Alessandri: agitador y demoledor (Santiago, 1953), 12. Alessandri stayed in Chile for business (not only theatrical business), and would head a family that still maintains strong political and cultural connections to government and opera houses. Several members of the family have been politicians, including two presidents (Arturo and Jorge Alessandri), and often involved with opera and the Teatro Municipal. Arturo Alessandri Rodríguez organised several seasons in the 1960s, and Felipe Alessandri is currently major of the city of Santiago, and thus leads the board of directors of the Teatro Municipal de Santiago.
34 Hernández, Los primeros teatros de Valparaíso, 45.
35 This is exactly the same place where in 1857, after much debate and fuelled by the desire to compete with Valparaiso, the Teatro Municipal was opened in Santiago, a public theatre financed by the city and the Chilean government, and still open today.
36 Eugenio Pereira Salas, Historia del teatro en Chile (Santiago, 1974), 278–9.
37 ANC, Actas de la Municipalidad de Valparaiso (12 June 1843).
38 ANC, Comunicaciones del Min. Interior a Valparaiso, vol. 51 (30 October 1844).
39 ANC, Intendente Valpor a Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, vol. 47, 267 (24 October 1843).
40 ANC, Actas de la Municipalidad de Valparaiso (11 October 1844). For a discussion on how this worked in Santiago at the time, see Martín Bowen Silva, ‘Distraer y gobernar: Teatro y diversiones públicas en Santiago de Chile durante la era de las revoluciones (1780–1836)’, Historia 49/1 (2016), 27–56.
41 Javier Rodríguez Piña, ‘Con mano protectora de la civilización: los difíciles primeros años del Gran Teatro Nacional de México, 1842–1850’, in Los papeles de Euterpe: La música en la ciudad de México desde la historia cultural. Siglo XIX, ed. Laura Suárez (México, 2014), 299.
42 ANC, Actas de la Municipalidad de Valparaiso (2 November 1844).
43 ANC, Actas de la Municipalidad de Valparaiso (18 October 1844).
44 ANC, Actas de la Municipalidad de Valparaiso (12 June 1843). The city's benefit evening, which would become an institution, was given for the first time in October 1845, the money (717 pesos with 4 reales) offered for the construction of a women's quarter in the local hospital. ANC, Comunicaciones Ministerio del Interior, vol. 51 (20 October 1845).
45 ANC, Decretos Gobierno Departamental, vol. 75/3 (October 1849). Already in November, the actor Rendón was not ready to go on stage and so cost Alessandri $25 for the first time. ANC, Decretos Gobierno Departamental vol. 75/4 (6 November 1849).
46 ANC, Copia Intendencia Actas Municipales, vol. 66/3 (19 February 1850). Following a celebrated evening with amateur performers on 14 February 1850, the Intendant wrote to convey ‘my most expressive thanks’ to all the ‘ladies and gentlemen who performed at the theatre, as well as to the manager Mr. Alessandri’ for offering a ‘vocal and instrumental concert at the Teatro de la Victoria in favour of the hospice being built in the city’.
47 ANC, Ministerio de Interior, vol. 55 Expediente (30 October 1844).
48 ANC, Ministerio de Interior, vol. 55, 51–2 (30 October 1844).
49 James William Duffy, A Handbook to Valparaiso (Valparaiso, 1860), 55.
50 Not Clureaux, as given in some secondary sources. The details of the contract with architect Pedro Clureaux can be found in ANC, Notarios Valparaiso, vol. 64, Victorio Martínez, 104–105v. For other descriptions of the theatre, see Roberto Hernández, Los primeros teatros de Valparaíso y el desarrollo general de nuestros espectáculos públicos (Valparaiso, 1928), 135.
51 Pereira Salas, Historia del teatro en Chile, 203 and 275.
52 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (9 September 1850).
53 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (17 May 1839).
54 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (17 December 1844).
55 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (9 March 1845).
56 Marina Lamus Obregón, Pintores en el escenario teatral (Bogotá, 2014), 53. She quotes a newspaper commentary in 1849 about the theatre being a place of ‘illusion’ when, in reality, ‘instead of palaces we have huts, instead of hotels cheap bars [aguardienterías] and instead of public gardens, nothing at all’.
57 These included one in Talca in 1854, another in Santiago in 1857, one in Guayaquil that same year, and the Teatro Municipal in Tacna in 1859.
58 ANC, Ministerio Interior al Intendente, vol. 61 (1847).
59 ANC, Notarios Valparaiso, vol. 66 Victorio Martínez, f.64 (1844).
60 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (4 October 1844).
61 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (24 January 1850).
62 Henry Ward on 28 October 1844 in ANC Notarios Valparaiso, vol. 66 Victorio Martínez, f.64. A month later (11 November 1844) Bartholomew Browne: ANC Notarios Valparaiso, vol. 66 Victorio Martínez, f.95. Francisco Nebel (4 January 1845; vol. 66, f.237), Juan de Dios Correa (4 January 1845; vol. 66, f.239), Eugenio Soler (26 February, 1845; vol. 66, f.349).
63 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (3 April 1844).
64 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (3 April 1844).
65 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (7 July 1844).
66 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (18 July 1844).
67 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (11 December 1844).
68 ANC, Intendencia Valparaiso, vol. 33, decretos (November 1844).
69 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (11 December 1844).
70 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (17 December 1844).
71 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (18 December 1844).
72 Gertrud Richert, ‘La correspondencia del pintor alemán Juan Mauricio Rugendas’, Boletín de la Academia Chilena de la Historia 19/1 (1952), 150–1.
73 Richert, ‘La correspondencia del pintor alemán’, 150.
74 Teatri, arti e letteratura, Bologna (29 August 1844).
75 Teatri, arti e letteratura, Bologna (29 August 1844).
76 Jacques Arago, Les deux océans (Brussels, 1854), 183–4.
77 Il pirata, Milan (5 January 1844).
78 Donoso, Alessandri: agitador y demoledor, 23.
79 Richert, ‘La correspondencia del pintor alemán’, 150–1.
80 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (2 November 1844).
81 For example, on 12 May 1848 to the Cuban tenor José Martí, who arrived in 1844 with the Pantanelli Company (ANC, Notarios Valparaiso, vol. 82 José Felipe Gándara, f.159).
82 See the advertisements put by Bazzani in, for example, Il pirata, Milan (14 July 1846) / L'Italia musicale, Milan (28 February 1852). Luigi Bazzani had worked as an impresario before, in the Caribbean and in Peru, and in Chile he also worked as impresario alongside Pantanelli. He owned a large collection of scores and costumes (which he made), sold and left to Luigi Grandi and José Martí when he went back to Italy in 1845 (ANC, Notarios Valparaíso, vol. 172, Juan Silva, f.254 (1845)). He was key in gathering a new opera company in 1847–8, including Ubaldi, Bastoggi and Comasi, all hired by him in Italy (ANC, Juzgado de Valparaíso, vol. 119, 13 (1846). I would like to thank Alexander Klein for providing this document).
83 For example, with the French businessman Carlos Zuderell, an impresario in Lima who copied Alessandri's model for the new opera house in Lima, in 1850, and who travelled to meet with Alessandri more than once. For example, see El comercio de Lima (25 June 1852).
84 Silva, Fernando, ‘Formas de sociabilidad en una urba portuaria: Valparaiso, 1850–1910’, Boletín de la Academia Chilena de la Historia 117 (2008), 94Google Scholar.
85 ANC, Notarios Valparaiso, vol. 74 Victorio Martínez, f.281 (9 January 1847).
86 Margaret R. Butler, ‘Opera and the Carnival Entertainment Package in Eighteenth-Century Turin’, in Operatic Geographies, ed. Aspden, 64.
87 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (14 February 1842).
88 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (2 February 1845).
89 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (21 June 1848).
90 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (6 October 1849).
91 Silva, ‘Formas de sociabilidad’, 96.
92 ANC, Comunicados autoridades a Intendentes, vol. 86, sf (1853).
93 ANC, Comunicados autoridades a Intendentes, vol. 86/2 (27 January 1853).
94 ANC, Comunicados autoridades a Intendentes, vol. 86/2 (27 January 1853).
95 ANC, Decretos Gobierno Departamental, vol. 75/6 (1849).
96 ANC, Decretos Gobierno Departamental, vol. 75 (30 January 1849).
97 ANC, Copia Intendencia Actas Municipales, vol. 66/5 (1854).
98 Tornero, Reminiscencias de un viejo editor, 33–8.
99 Laura Suárez, ‘Los libretos: un negocio para las imprentas, 1830–1860’, in Los papeles de Euterpe: La música en la ciudad de México desde la historia cultural. Siglo XIX, ed. Laura Suárez (México, 2014).
101 Cayetano Donizetti, Parisina: Trajedia lírica en tres actos (Valparaiso, 1844).
102 Cartagena, La cultura de la ópera en Chile, 96.
103 El mensajero del Teatro de la Victoria, Valparaiso (8 December 1847, 16 December 1847 and 3 February 1848).
104 El mensajero del Teatro de la Victoria, Valparaiso (26 December 1848, 1 January 1848).
105 El mensajero del Teatro de la Victoria, Valparaiso (9 December 1847 and 1 January 1848).
106 The point of readership of magazines from this period has been explored more extensively in Argentina, see the edition prepared by Melanie Plesch of El boletín musical (1837) (La Plata, 2006).
107 El mensajero del Teatro de la Victoria, Valparaiso (23 December 1847 and 26 December 1847).
108 La revista Católica, 1 April 1845.
109 El mensajero del Teatro de la Victoria, Valparaiso (8 December 1847 – 8 December being the day of the Immaculate Conception and most important celebration of the Virgin Mary in Catholic countries at the time).
110 El mensajero del Teatro de la Victoria, Valparaiso (18 January 1848).
111 ANC, Decretos Comandancia General de Armas, vol. 85 (February 1854).
112 Richert, ‘La correspondencia del pintor alemán’, 147–8, letter to Mauricio Rugendas (28 May 1844).
113 Richert, ‘La correspondencia del pintor alemán’, 151–2. Letter from Teresa Rossi to Mauricio Rugendas (18 June 1844).
114 Il pirata, Milan, 5 April 1844. Teatri, arti e letteratura, Bologna (29 August 1844).
115 Teatri, arti e letteratura, Bologna (29 August 1844).
116 La época, La Paz (26 March 1847).
117 El comercio de Lima (29 March 1849). He should not be confused with another Antonio Meucci who worked in La Habana at this time, also as stage designer, and who later was a key participant in the invention of the telephone.
118 El comercio de Lima (17 April 1852).
120 Memoria que el Ministro de Estado en el Departamento del Interior presenta al Congreso Nacional de 1862 (Santiago, 1862), 11.
121 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (9 March 1847); see also El Mercurio de Valparaíso (23 January 1845). Panoramas were already being exhibited in Valparaiso, but they were a novelty, rather small, and without a proper venue for their exhibition (like the Salón Óptico that appeared in the 1850s in Santiago).
122 Benjamin Walton, ‘L'italiana in Calcutta’, in Aspden, Operatic Geographies, 120.
123 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (9 March 1847).
124 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (11 January 1845).
125 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (9 March 1847).
126 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (23 January 1845).
127 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (19 November 1850).
128 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (17 December 1844).
129 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (16 April 1845).
130 Santos Tornero, Reminiscencias de un viejo editor, 35.
131 Donoso, Alessandri: agitador y demoledor, 23.
132 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (24 January 1850).
133 ANC, Copia Actas Intendencia de Valparaiso, vol. 66/6 (1854).
134 ANC, Decretos Comandancia General de Armas, vol. 85 (October 1852).
135 The score is kept in the library of the Faculty of Music of the Universidad de Chile.
136 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (16 April 1854).
137 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (5 April 1854).
138 El Mercurio de Valparaíso (2 April 1854).
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